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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Villarreal boss aims to make Reds 'suffer'

Villarreal's Marcelino Garcia Photo: Reuters
Villarreal's Marcelino Garcia Photo: Reuters

Villarreal manager Marcelino insists his side are more than equal to Europa League favourites Liverpool and hopes the visitors "suffer" at El Madrigal.

The Reds' dramatic win to put out Borussia Dortmund in the last round immediately made Jurgen Klopp's team top of the betting to lift the trophy in Basle next month.

But Marcelino believes Villarreal, fourth in La Liga but 20 points behind third-placed Real Madrid, are a match.

"Liverpool might be the favourite - the club, their history and the fact that they knocked out Borussia Dortmund all add up - but we don't consider ourselves to be less than them," he said ahead of their semi-final first leg.

"We are going to give everything from our side to eliminate this legendary team.

"We don't have any pressure on us. I'm really satisfied with and grateful to this squad for getting to this semi-final.

Difficult

"We are very hopeful and convinced that we are capable of beating Liverpool, and all the while we'll be enjoying the occasion.

"I felt more pressure in the previous knockout ties. We have the chance to make history at this club now.

"If we manage to enjoy the match and do the things we know how to do I think they're going to suffer a lot at our ground." Villarreal have lost all three previous European semi-finals they have contested and striker Roberto Soldado, the former Tottenham misfit, admits it would be a major achievement to take the next step.

"It would be a very big achievement for Villarreal to get through to the final. It's what we're all dreaming about," said the Spaniard, who himself has been a beaten semi-finalists twice already.

"We strongly believe in our chances, although we know it's going to be difficult.

"This excitement must help us to play to our top level. We shouldn't feel any pressure but go out there and enjoy the moment that we're going to live together, players and fans alike." If Villarreal reach their first European final at the fourth attempt it will be because of a carefully cultivated blend of home-grown players and intelligent purchases.

But the Spanish side's appearance in the last four tonight vindicates the 19-year strategy of their Valencia-born billionaire president Fernando Roig.

Sales

Last year the club reinvested the €55.5million they received from high-profile sales, including Gabriel Paulista to Arsenal and Luciano Vietto to Atletico Madrid to set up them up for the new season.

With Villarreal on course for a return to the Champions League next season - they are four points clear in fourth place in La Liga with three games left - the mix looks potent for a team who have spent just 16 of their 93 years in the top flight.

However, the club's focus this week is on beating Liverpool and, having come so close to reaching a major continental final in 2004, 2006 and 2011, Villarreal are determined to finally seize the moment.

"This club has got close several times and couldn't do it in the end, so we are really excited about playing this semi-final and above all reaching the final," said midfielder Denis Suarez.

"We're up against a historic opponent and that makes it extra special, it's a great stage for the club and for the players."

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